Many employers will already have started think about, or have even been implementing plans to return workers back to the office safely. Making the office a safe and inclusive space can involve a complex interplay between different regulations and legislation.
The regulatory framework
As businesses start to think about returning people to workplaces, there will be a number of different regulations and legislative considerations. Outlined below are considerations for the UK, but most countries will have something similar. Businesses need to check the regulations wherever in the countries where their offices are based.
First, and most important now are the COVID-19 regulations which require social distancing, cleaning and wearing of masks. Regulations and legal requirements that pre-dated the pandemic, however, still apply and these include the duty not to discriminate against disabled people and to make reasonable adjustments. Legal duties that employers must not overlook include:
- The Equality Act 2010 and the duty to make reasonable adjustments – It is possible that what was a reasonable adjustment (or accommodation) pre-pandemic is no longer reasonable. An example might be standing closer to someone who has hearing loss and talking face to face without a mask so they can lip read. This does not mean, however, that the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments no longer applies. Employers obligations have not changed. What they must now do is to make new adjustments that are reasonable in the circumstances that remove or reduce barriers experienced. by disabled people.
- Health and Safety Regulations
- Building Regulations
- Fire Regulations – Employers cannot simply block access to all staircases, for example, because they are too narrow to enable social distancing.
Consultancy – A tailored approach
While the information in this resource provides practical advice and examples to support organisations welcoming colleagues back to their office (or other working environments), we also recognise that every working environment is unique and therefore presents a different set of challenges to consider.
Business Disability Forum’s consultancy service provide tailored support to help you fully explore those challenges and put effective measures in place.
Our consultancy service is based on over 25 years of working with a broad range of public and private sector organisations meaning we are positioned to provide practical solutions that will fit with your organisation. Our team of specialists have a proven track record of delivering disability-smart solutions and our approach is underpinned by three key principles;
- We adopt a best practice methodology centred around the social model of disability. Experience shows that a best practice approach minimises legal risk while allowing a flexibility which is not restricted by varying jurisdictions.
- We work with Members and Partners in a co-operative and supportive manner to build on what they have already achieved. For us, it is important that we transfer our knowledge and experience to our clients to help develop a self-sustaining approach for the future.
- All our advice and support is practical and realistic and takes into account the organisation’s context and priorities.
If you are exploring how best to bring colleagues back to their offices in a safe and practical way and would welcome a discussion with one of our consultants, please do get in touch at email@example.com